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Most people are only familiar with the lunar dynasty king Yayati, who was cursed with old age by Sukracharya (guru of the Asuras) and regained his youth by giving his old age to his youngest son Puru. Puru, along with Yayati's eldest son Yadu, started two of the most famous royal families, the Pauravas and the Yadavas. Less famous, however, is Yayati's father Nahusha. Nahusha was such a good king on Earth that when Indra temporarily abandoned his post, the gods chose Nahusha to serve as the new king of the three worlds. But Nahusha was soon corrupted by his power, so the sage Agastya cursed him to become a large snake. Nahusha was only freed from the curse when he had a conversation with the Pandava Yudishthira about the proper way he should have lived his life, as described in the Vana Parva of the Mahabharata.

But my question is about Nahusha's wife. I gather from several sources that his wife was Viraja, a mind-born daughter of the Pitris, or ghosts of departed ancestors.

Here is what the Harivamsa says, for instance:

the ancestors of Kardama Prajapati are the descendants of Pulaha Prajapati, and these are the fatherly gods collectively termed as Susvadhas ... [T]he brainchild of this group of manes is lady Viraja who is the mother of king Yayati and the wife of King Nahusha.

A later chapter of the Harivamsa says the same thing:

King Nahusha begot six sons through a damsel of fatherly gods, known as lady Viraja, or lady Suswadha, to wit, these six Indra-like sons are: Yati, Yayati, Samyati, Ayati, Bhava, and Suyati

And it's also mentioned in this excerpt from the Anushanga Pada of the Vayu Purana:

Ayjapas were the Pitris of Kardama, the Prajapati, who was born of Pulaha. They were born of him again.... Groups of Vaishyas who are desirous of benefit, revere these in Shraddha. Their mental daughter is famous by the name of Viraja. The chaste lady was the wife of Nahusha and the mother of Yayati.

So my question is, what is the story of how a human king Nahusha married a daughter of the Pitris? The group of Pitris that Viraja was born from is apparently only worshipped by Vaishyas, not Kshatriyas, so I don't know how Nahusha would have encountered these Pitris or their daughter. Are there any scriptures that discuss this.

By the way, as I discuss in this answer, there is a story in the Padma Purana where instead of Viraja, Nahusha's wife is said to be Shiva and Parvati's daughter Ashokasundari. But given all the scriptural evidence I've given above, that story might be an interpolation.

  • How do Pitrs (literally the deceased souls) have children? – Surya Nov 7 '15 at 17:34
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    @Surya What Hindu scripture seems to say is that each group of Pitris together had one mind-born daughter. I'm not sure how that works; perhaps they all join their minds together and a baby manifests out of their shared thought. – Keshav Srinivasan Nov 7 '15 at 23:03
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    There are two varieties of Pitris. Deva Pitri and Manava Pitri. Manava Pitri are deceased souls , who gets temporary bodies in pitraloka to enjoy their positive karmas. Deva Pitris are actually gods , who procreate just like gods. – tekkk Aug 14 '17 at 23:40
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Ashoksundari is Viraja. They're different names of the same goddess. She is also known as Rakkayi Amman, Jyoti, Kumari. She us the daughter of Shiva. She is said to be a "mental" daughter because she was born out of Parvati mata's forehead in the form of Jyoti while she sat under the Ashokvriksh and meditated for a daughter. Her name is also thus Ashoksundari. Viraja comes from the Prithas as a 'muh boli' daughter. Just as Kartikeya has nine mothers, and isn't taken as literal nine biological mothers, the same suit follows with Viraja.

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    Welcome to Hinduism.SE! You should cite sources. – Keshav Srinivasan Feb 21 '16 at 8:38
  • @Krishna Where did you get that idea from???Isn't Jyoti different from AshokSundari? – Vick Feb 21 '16 at 11:00

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